Brian Henry Martin at the movies

No More 'Matthew Mahogany'

Published Thursday, 23 May 2013
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He was supposed to be the new Paul Newman, a Hollywood hunk with an edge. For actor Matthew McConaughey, his future was so bright we would all have to wear shades.

But over the last few years what most critics saw was 'Matthew Mahogany' a pretty plank of wood, all tan and teeth starring in a clump of hopeless rom-coms. What happened to the blue eyed Texan star?

Well, his mainstream movies have grossed over a billion dollars making McConaughey one of the most bankable leading men. But for all the box office there were little plaudits. Were his good looks disguising his great talent?

Well, not anymore. In the past year, McConaughey is back in the saddle and better than ever. He has excelled in a daring bunch of independent films including Killer Joe, Magic Mike, and Mud, a classic coming of age drama set on the banks of the great Mississippi River. After years of having mud slung at him, now he's slinging 'Mud' back at us. Could his latest film be his best performance yet?

Ellis (Tye Sheridan)and his friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are two precocious teenage boys who find a fugitive named Mud (McConaughey) hiding out on a lonesome river island. "I grew up round here" explains Mud "But I've been away for a while". He then tells the boys a tall tale of how he killed a man in Texas, how vengeful bounty hunters are coming to get him and how his crime was one of passion, to protect his one true love Juniper (Reese Witherspoon).

Skeptical but intrigued, Ellis and Neckbone agree to help Mud reunite with Juniper and escape into the sunset. Their plan hinges on fixing up an abandoned boat which after a mighty flood is stuck high up in the branches of the island. "Hell of a thang" twangs Mud "a boat in a tree!".

This is American cinema at its very best. Huckleberry Finn meets Stand By Me as writer/ director Jeff Nichols creates a slow flowing film that draws you deeper and deeper into the characters. This is a moving story in which the river runs through every scene. The stunning landscape of the Mississippi, and the back water world of the families and fishermen.

The two boys are terrific and McConaughey is sensational as Mud, dazzlingly frazzled as the hunted and haunted man on the run. "There are things you can get away with in this world and there are things you can't" says Mud. He's up grit creek without a paddle, and only his powerful friendship with the boys can save his soul.

When Mud talks, he does so with a cigarette clenched in his teeth and a snake tattoo rippling on his arm. McConaughey's performance is a superior blend of charm and menace, which keeps the audience on the edge of their seats right to the end.

After this, I'm delighted to say that mahogany is the wood for fine furniture and McConaughey is the name for fine films.

Mud (Cert 12a) is now showing in selected cinemas.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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